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April 28, 2015 / 9 Iyar, 5775
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Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Ten: Rabbi Kook

Tevye book cover

Good to his word, Aharon succeeded in securing the red immigration cards that the Jews needed to become foreign residents of Turkish Palestine. Theoretically, the permits allowed them to live and work in the country without fear of expulsion, but the permits could be revoked at the whim of a nasty official. When their one day of welcome at Rishon LeZion expired, the pioneers once again gathered their belong- ings and set off like gypsies on the road to Jaffa. Like a make-believe emperor, Dupont stood in his carriage at the entrance to the colony, making sure that all of the newcomers vacated his vassal state. The religious Jews headed for Zichron Yaakov to arrange for absorption in one of the “frum” religious JCA settlements, while the Zionists went off to find work in secular kibbutzim.

Tevye and his family set off for the historic reunion with Hodel. Ruchel and Nachman had been granted a two day vacation before they had to report back to Rishon, so they were traveling with Tevye to Jaffa. They had rented a Company wagon, and everyone crowded inside.

The morning after the wedding, it was impossible to tell what shone more brightly, Nachman’s face or the sparkling sun of the Holy Land. As the Rabbis of the Talmud had said, “When a man finds a wife, he finds a blessing.” Yesterday, Nachman was a youth. Today, he was a man. Ruchel too was all smiles. Now that she was married, she had to cover her hair with a kerchief, which gave her a special “grown up” status. All the morning, she kept her head lowered to hide her continuous blush.

Tevye sat between the bride and groom, at the helm of the wagon. He was in a jubilant mood. Not only had his Ruchela married a scholar, a real Talmid Chacham, but he himself had undergone a miraculous transformation. It seemed liked a dream, but here he was, holding a pair of reins in his hands, driving a horse and wagon, not in Czarist Russia, but in God’s chosen land! And who could tell what other wonders were in store? According to the great Bible commentator, Rashi, God’s promise to Abraham included not only the Land of Israel, but children, affluence, and fame. Though an aging widower like Tevye could not expect any more children, he certainly was not loathe to the prospect of receiving a modest fortune and world renown. Nonetheless, he was happy with what he had. With hardly a ruble in his pocket, Tevye felt like a very rich man.

So high were Tevye’s spirits, he didn’t seem to notice the desolation around him. All of the landscape was scorched. There were more rocks on the road than on the bordering hillsides. A shade tree could barely be found. The scant vegetation which managed to grow in the wasteland was shrouded in dust, like old furniture stored in an attic. Besides an occasional bedouin, not a human being could be seen along the entire stretch of their journey.

Nachman also felt joyously happy. With an unrestrained enthusiasm, he didn’t stop talking. He didn’t speak about his new wife. Nor did he chatter about his wedding. Nor about being in Israel. He spoke on and on about Rabbi Kook. With a look of mystical rapture, he confessed that meeting Rabbi Kook was the dream of his life. Any other woman besides Ruchel might have been jealous, but she was happy that his dream was about to come true. Tevye was more anxious to get on to the reunion with Hodel, but Nachman would not be dissuaded. Nachman insisted that they meet Rabbi Kook. First, he wanted to receive the exalted Rabbi’s blessing. Second, he wanted to hear everything he could from the respected sage. To understand the great spiritual adventure they were living, Nachman insisted, they had to meet the mentor of their generation, the rabbi of rabbis, HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook.

Tevye was skeptical. He had met lots of rabbis in his lifetime, and though he respected them all, he didn’t see a big difference between one Torah scholar and the next.

“What great spiritual adventure?” Bat Sheva asked.

“The redemption of our people,” Nachman answered.

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." For the past several years, he has written a popular and controversial blog at Arutz 7. A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press


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